Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Running behind the DDT truck

or... one more reason Gen X is kind of ..."damaged"

#25 in an occasional series of repressed 70's memories that turn out to be true.

This is most accurately a 50s memory, but even in 1972, the DDT truck was as popular a neighborhood event as the ice-cream man.  Cough if you did this.

I do not know what inspired us to take to the streets and run into the Fog that Thrills, except that this was apparently a ritual established a generation ahead of us. You can google the title of this entry and find many happy memories of this behavior.   You will also have to add your own, because mine are a little....hazy.

Rachel Carson, that killjoy, raised her hand about DDT 10 years before it was banned, but she may have been more concerned about the bald eagle than she was about us.  I am unable to find a 1970s PSA about DDT, but here is an ad fom the 40s that delights me no end.

"The great expectations held for DDT have been realized. During 1946, exhaustive scientific tests have shown that, when properly used, DDT kills a host of destructive insect pests, and is a benefactor of all humanity."

The 70s ruled in blunt delivery, but you can't beat the 40s for sheer American Might and Hyperbole.  I thought for sure it would claim to have "wrangled Tojo" and won the Olympics.

Now get this:
new theory on obesity links pre-natal DDT exposure to increased weight in adulthood.  I find this hard to conclude, since we are all 20 pounds or more heavier than people our age 20-30 years ago, and this brief article does not say these babies are heavier than babies born to mothers who did not ingest contaminated fish.  And no one seems to have factored for corn syrup and the death of the 8 oz soda.  But then it is my job to draw these things in for you.  You can come to your own conclusions.

Unless the lead paint, DDT, Agent Orange, and radon have ruined you.


  1. Ah, the "skeeter man" - a twice-weekly ritual of summer at Virginia Beach in the 60's. Just after dusk (on Grannie's street anyway) a man in a suped-up* cart ran up and down pumping that lovely smoke into back yards and along the edges of the lake killing skeeters as he went. And, yes all the kids came out to run and play in the smoke. No one seemed to worry at all about any future consequences.

    So far, we are into the second generation and no extra arms or legs, or humps, or any other distinguishing oddities of skeeter smoke.

    * suped-up: I'm struggling with this, I want to use "souped" but then that brings images of Campbell's Chicken Noodle running everywhere! I need a grammar goddess to rule on the proper spelling for me.

  2. I find it really hard to get sentimental for spraying poisons in an effort to create a completely insect-free environment. As we now know, that's an unattainable goal whose pursuit tends to make the bad insects worse. Plus, it kills beneficial birds, fish and mammals.

    Thinking back on our innocence is okay, just don't take it too far. That era was also the era of segregated buses, organ-constricting girdles and corsets, and back-alley abortion.

    Recent research shows a firm connection to exposure to DDT and breast cancer in the children of the exposee, reproductive organ damage in both males and females, and Type II diabetes. If we carefully control our insulin, we might survive longer to remember the good old days when we thought DDT was harmless.

  3. I guess things had changed by the time I encountered the DDT truck. My parents used to call us in the house, and likewise other kids would go home, the neighborhood would clear. Then we'd run around the house, closing up all the windows. Then we would sit inside and watch the billowy white fog roll over the front yard. when it hit the windows, we'd rush to the back of the house to watch it appear and swallow the back yard. Once the fog had dissipated, we were allowed back out into the street to play. Not too sure it really did anything for the mosquitos though.


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